I have a story about impossibility. Improbability.
But first let me clarify something. Life’s a series of conversations. Conversations between man and his brother and sister. Between man and himself. Between man and our maker. Our question. And sometimes, sometimes, it’s an argument.
And Jerusalem, well, Jerusalem, is an everlasting conversation. Often an argument.
One recent conversation led me to discover the man I was facing was my undiscovered cousin, Shlomi. But he is another story.
So here’s the conversation I had with myself last week.
On the day I buried my dear Dad, David, I wore the ring of his father, Isaac, who I didn’t get to meet. It gave comfort. My father hated the ring. But I remembered it well from childhood. From my mother’s jewellery box. From rummaging around and being told to ‘leave things alone’.
My grandfather wore it when he fought the fascists in Spain, with Orwell, Penrose and Capa. He was an idealist. My father was an idealist and I am an idealist. Fighters. Writers. Jews. All men of words. All published. And sometimes we had to hold weapons.
I kept the ring on my finger for nine years.
Then one night, a few years ago, when I was living in Jerusalem, I lost it. It broke my heart. We looked everywhere. Everywhere. People still remember.
So that’s life, right? Attachments. Loss. Grief. Some pain. We all have it. Need it.
Last week, I went to the Kotel. I had to have a conversation. Quick. Short. I don’t know why I was compelled to do it and it messed up my schedule for the day. Everything cancelled for 10 minutes at the wall. But a conversation called me. So I decided to go, without argument.
‘We don’t speak often. I neglect this.’ And so I put tefillin, said Shema and apologized for not talking so often. ‘But I’m here now and I’m thankful for my life. I’m blessed. Even though I lost almost all of my family and the start of a new family. And I want you to know this. I walk in peace, without anger, having seen more pain than we need. And you know this. You were there in the worst moments of pain.’
Afterwards I walked home. Dazed. On the way back I stopped at a flea market in Davidka Square. I didn’t browse through the stalls. I walked directly to the center of 40 tables and picked up my ring. The first item I touched. The only item I handled. I couldn’t believe it. I was in a trance and exclaimed: ‘Here’s my ring.’ The woman selling thought I was insane. Why not. I would, wouldn’t you. She chuckled, corrected me, and said: ‘No, this is my ring and the price is 980 shekels.’
And so we had a conversation. I walked her through the history of the ring, showed her an old photo and she said: ‘It really is your ring’. In the end she refused my money. She said: ‘it is your ring. It is “written”‘.
And with her blessing the ring returned to the hand it wasn’t made for. To the son of an idealist who hated it. Reunited with the finger it painfully lost. To the boy who needed comfort. The man I didn’t meet but wish I had. To the father I was blessed by. And back to the hand it was made for. We exchanged numbers and remain close.
There is no explanation. No explanation for wisdom, for guidance, for questions within answers. For the eternal conversations.
The ring is a metaphor for everything that can happen. Cannot happen. Will happen. And will not happen.
Arguments, questions and a special singular conversation. One to remind. One to forget. One we didn’t have.
Life is a series of conversations. Joy and pain. Together. Where they start and end. Where they belong.
I spent the weekend in Netanya surfing with friends. I needed to clear my mind.
Tomorrow, I will go to the Kotel. To take a moment. To have a conversation. Even though you already know. You know it all. Because it is written, right. And you wrote it all. So I decided I cannot live anywhere but shema, Israel. You are my heart. And always have been. Will be. Are. Ours. Here: Israel.
The inner conflict is finished. My home. Our home. And what a house we built. I found my self many times. So I started aliyah. Found true peace. And that’s that. I am Adam ben David. My father was David ben Yitzchak. As it was written. Our conversation.
This story is dedicated to those who haven’t ‘lived, loved, lost or learnt’. You will. You must. For it is written. Shana Tova.